Panel backs wind project


FARMINGTON – Franklin County commissioners signed a letter to support the Kibby Wind Power project slated for Kibby and Skinner townships in the northern section of the county, not far from the Canadian border.

The commission unanimously voted to support the project on July 3 and Commissioners Fred Hardy of New Sharon and Meldon Gilmore of Freeman Township endorsed the letter to be sent to Catherine Carroll, director of the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission, Tuesday. Commissioner Gary McGrane of Jay had signed the letter earlier.

TransCanada Maine Wind Development Inc. proposes to build a 44-turbine wind farm on Kibby Mountain and Kibby Range.

The LURC staff is currently reviewing the company’s petition to rezone about 2,908 acres to a planned development subdistrict for the wind farm.

The project is expected to cost $270 million and is anticipated to produce enough electricity for 50,000 average households. The power generated is to be used in New England, according to the company’s fact sheet.

County commissioners stated in their letter that “This project is in line with our environmental and economic policies for Franklin County and is consistent and compatible with the existing forestry operations in the surrounding region. We believe that it is a beneficial development that will fuel much needed economic growth, while not interfering with our region’s important tourism and recreation history. Furthermore, wind power is necessary to help stabilize greenhouse gas emissions and electricity prices.”

Commissioners also noted that the company worked to minimize potential species impacts through careful design and layout and its operation would displace 200,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year.

Commissioners believe that “access to an additional reliable, clean, and local source of renewable energy is needed because it will help to stabilize the electricity rates in our region and bring us closer to energy independence,” the letter states.

In addition to environmental benefits, this project will result in many direct economic benefits to Franklin County, commissioners state.

“The annual taxes paid to the Franklin County Unorganized Territory Fund would be in excess of $1 million per year, making TransCanada the largest taxpayer into this fund,” the letter says.

Additionally, about $160,000 would be paid annually to the town of Eustis in the form of a community-benefits package and the taxes on a portion of the transmission line that would run through the town.

Company representatives said previously that during construction of the project, 250 jobs would be created at peak and 10 to 12 permanent jobs once the project is completed and online.

“Franklin County has struggled economically recently, lagging behind much of the state in terms of unemployment and percentages of people living below the poverty line,” county commissioners wrote. “A project of this magnitude could contribute significantly towards improving this situation. The people that live and work in this region understand this and have written to us about how important they believe this project to be.”